SPRINGFIELD, Mass (WGGB) — Fears over football related concussions appear to be cutting down on the number of youth players on the gridiron. There’s been a spotlight in recent years on serious concussions in the NFL.
Now, it seems many are second guessing the popular rite of passage of high school football under Friday night lights.
“Better to play basketball and baseball and don’t get hurt and I know a lot of parents are leery of that these days because of all the things that are going on in the NFL,” Joe Davis said.
Davis knows all about the issue. His cousin is former NFL running back Brian Westbrook, who retired from the Philadelphia Eagles after suffering three concussions in two months.
“I don’t know if that made him quit but it was on his mind,” Davis said. “That’s why he only played 8 years.”
Now Davis fears for his grandson on Central High School’s team, and he’s not alone. According to ESPN, between 2010 and 2012, more than 23,000 youth players stopped playing Pop Warner football nationwide, good for a 9.5% decline. Western Massachusetts athletic directors say a similar decline has been seen, particularly in smaller towns, and mainly for one concern:
“Somebody getting hurt at a young age, and then for the rest of their life, when they get a little older, you know they start memory loss and everything like that,” Davis said.
Still, some say from equipment to game play, there are precautions that even high school players can take.
“The Westfield High School Booster Club petitioned to get everyone a guardian cap to wear under their helmets and we’ve noticed a decrease in concussions this year,” parent Karen Didomenico said.
“They are pretty safe with the kids,” parent Darrin Hayes said. “I think with them changing the rules, meaning a player can’t lead with their head will reduce a lot of that.”
Parents on both sides seem to agree that if kids want to play football, they will, so it’s safest to join organized leagues with proper equipment.
Every high school football team in Massachusetts must submit a procedure to the MIAA and the Department of Public Health about how they prevent, educate, and handle football concussions.